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Angel Tag

Parachute Prayer“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” –Psalm 91:11-12

Several years ago, I was lying on the couch reading a great book when my middle son came running through the room at nearly light speed. Our small dog was close on his heels, obviously playing “It” in a serious game of tag. Before Windsor could latch on to Alex’s pant leg, however, Alex hopped up on a wooden chair. I watched in horror as the chair tilted from its usual 90-degree angle to less than 45. I’m pretty sure there’s a law of physics that says a chair pushed to that angle by a fast-moving boy will fall to the floor, carrying the boy with it. To make things worse, the corner of our entertainment center was in the direct path of the boy’s forehead, our TV in line with his shoulder. Catastrophe was inevitable; we were headed to the ER.

The accident never happened, though. I was shocked! As I watched, the chair. just. stopped. moving.

Alex froze in place, looking like a surfer holding himself upright at the top of the perfect wave; then he slowly leaned backward to right the chair. As its legs touched the floor, a big, excited grin spread across my son’s face as he looked at me, his eyes wide with delight.

“Wasn’t that cool?!” he said.

I honestly didn’t know whether to clap or cry. I couldn’t stop a smile of incredulity from spreading across my face, but I did have the presence of mind to show Alex what could have happened, what should have happened, and why he’d better never come that close to making that happen again. When the Bible tells about the work of God’s angels, I know it’s telling the truth. I haven’t actually seen them, but I’ve seen the results of their actions. I’m thankful God sometimes chooses to send them to protect and care.

Today’s Parachute Prayer: When you see small children playing in your neighborhood or grown-ups doing dangerous jobs such as trimming trees or completing construction projects up high, ask God to command his angels to watch over them, to keep them safe from harm.

Father, thank You for the unseen angels who follow Your orders on our behalf. In a world full of danger, their presence is a comfort to us from You. Amen.

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Praying for Prior Occupants

Parachute PrayerDo you like my new Parachute Prayer header? New blog—new header for this regular feature. I’m excited about this!

In case you didn’t follow me here from Wildflower Thinking where I first launched Parachute Prayers, let me redefine them for you before I launch into today’s:

The parachute in a Parachute Prayer is like the parachute on a dandelion—the white fluffy thing that carries the seeds far and away, so the dandelion can procreate. Some people call these parachutes Dandelion Dust. And, though the process drives those who are obsessive/compulsive about their perfect lawns crazy, I think dandelion parachutes are a brilliant example of our Creator’s ingenuity. In my opinion, dandelions are wildflowers. They are not weeds.

So, when I see something that prompts me to pray—whether it’s for something general or specific, big, small, near or far—I whisper a prayer, or two or three, just as I’d gently blow the parachutes off a dandelion. Then I trust God to do with it what He will. That is the essence of Parachute Prayer.

Today’s Parachute Prayer prompt is for the prior occupants of our homes. Unless you happen to live in a brand new home, someone else inhabited your current space before you did. (And, even if you’re in a new home, someone, at some time, probably lived on your land, somehow.)

From time to time, you may come across evidence of your home’s prior occupant. For instance, my husband and I know that the man who lived in our home before we did enjoyed woodworking and considered himself to be something of a handy man. He left a beautiful bookcase that he’d built behind for us to enjoy. He also had a tendency to Mickey-Mouse things that needed to be repaired. Mickey-Mousing is a useful skill—until the something you Mickey-Moused has to be repaired again and someone else has to figure out what you did, so they can undo it, then Mickey-Mouse a new repair of their own. Mickey-Mousing reminds us of our homes prior occupant.

Does anybody know why we call it Mickey-Mousing? I’d really hate to think that we’re insulting the world’s favorite mouse.

Back to the Parachute Prayer: when you come across something that reminds you your current home had a previous occupant, pray for that person and his or her family. You may receive a piece of mail to return or find something left behind in the attic or on a high closet shelf. Maybe this person added a unique, yet permanent, personal touch. When you notice these, take a moment to pray.

You may not know the people who once lived in your home, but God does. He also knows their needs. A whispered prayer may make a difference in ways you’ll never know.

Father, I know the man who built my bookshelves has gone on to eternity, yet his family lives on—and they were so proud of him. Help them to follow his example, leaving legacies of their own. And, if any among them don’t know You, please open their eyes and their hearts to You. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays. Visit there to read many devotional thoughts published this weekend.

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A Parachute Prayer for the New Year

Parachute PrayerAs we prepare for the New Year, whether we make resolutions or not, many of us become introspective, considering improvements, goals, habits, and dreams. There’s just something about a new day, week, month, year, decade, or millennium that seems to trigger this in us: the desire to grab hold of something brand new and make something beautiful out of it.

I think it has something to do with being made in the image of our grand, Creator God. We want to create, too! Yet when one year doesn’t go exactly as planned, we look forward to the opportunity to try all over again.

I don’t usually make resolutions, but I do set goals, make plans, and dream. I’ve been ultra-compulsive about it this year, in fact. I think that comes naturally out of becoming an empty-nester and embarking on a new phase of this life’s adventure. I have books to write, many more to read, and a great desire to organize ev-er-y-thing. I’m also feeling called to pray like never before and am greatly intrigued to discover where that calling will lead. (If you are following this blog, I promise, prayer will be this year’s biggest theme!)

  • How do you approach the New Year? Do you make resolutions, reflect and goal-set, or simply try not to think about it much?

If you approach the New Year like I do, you need to know that all this introspection, reflection, and goal-setting is meaningless if your perspective is off. In order to move forward effectively, we must first learn to see ourselves as God sees us.

New Year PrayerFor example, whether or not we lose an extra five pounds is probably one of God’s lower priorities for us. He wants us to make healthy choices and care for His design. If we’re doing that, the number on the scale is irrelevant. When we train ourselves to place our focus where His is—such as on the healthy choice instead of on the scale— we’ll probably take a lot of pressure off of ourselves. Then we will be able to serve Him with a better frame of mind: “God loves me and has meaningful work for me to do. I’ll care for myself so that I can serve Him well,” rather than “I’m not good enough to serve God because I just can’t seem to reach this goal. I am a failure. I’m incompetent. Poor me.”

In light of this, let’s practice a new Parachute Prayer: Whenever you see your reflection, pray, “Lord, please help me see myself as You see me. Help me to cooperate with You as I see You working in my life. Make me over in Your image that I’ll be able to serve You well. In Jesus’ name and for Your glory, amen.”

If we do this, God will answer our prayer and help us to see our own lives from His perspective which is, truthfully, the only perspective that counts. Armed with this point of view, we’ll be able to step into 2014 with confidence. God will make something truly beautiful using us.

For more encouraging thoughts this weekend, visit The Weekend Brew and Spiritual Sundays.

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A Parachute Prayer for Postal Workers

Parachute PrayerI got a unique view of the post office the other day. Waiting for my son to apply for a passport, I was sitting in a back room just behind where what must have been all of our city was impatiently waiting in line in a frantic attempt to get last-minute packages sent. Every service window was open! It must have been the busiest day of the postal year.

Behind where I was sitting was another customer service window leading into a small back office. A sweet lady was sitting at her desk, talking with customers on the phone. I couldn’t help but hear her:

“Please don’t yell in my ear, ma’am.”

“We care about every single piece of mail that comes through this facility.”

“We know it’s important that packages get there for Christmas. We’re doing the best we can.”

“Sometimes things go wrong.”

I was amazed at this woman’s patience as she fielded angry call after angry call, always remaining calm. Between calls, she even managed to tease my son about his age, telling the passport representative to double-check to be sure he was really old enough to apply. Her light-hearted attitude encouraged everyone in the room.

Which gave me an idea for a Parachute Prayer: for the next few days, whenever you see a mail or package delivery truck or go to check your mail, please take time to whisper a prayer for the people who are working so hard to get your gifts to your loved ones and to you. By now, you’ve probably shopped for, packaged, and shipped everything. You’re relaxing and waiting for Christmas to come. But the delivery people are working harder than ever to get presents to people on time.

Let’s pray them through!

And while we’re at it, let’s make an earnest attempt to be patient and kind, calm and encouraging. Because they care about every piece of mail. But sometimes things go wrong.

Father, please bless the people who deliver our Christmas cards and packages. Keep them safe as they work quickly, yet strive to be efficient, too. Bless them with a calm presence and a sense of humor in the midst of great chaos. And help us to be kind and thankful—even if things go wrong. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Linking up today with Spiritual Sundays and The Weekend Brew.

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Praying for Families Apart for the Holidays

Once upon a time, when my husband was deployed over Christmas, I remember being reduced to a puddle of tears right in the middle of the baking goods aisle at the grocery story by Karen Carpenter’s beloved song, Merry Christmas, Darling, playing throughout the store.

You remember the one. Merry Christmas, Darling. We’re apart, that’s true . . .

Bah. Humbug.

I didn’t fare much better with Elvis’s, Blue Christmas, or the ever-popular, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, playing at the mall.

I remember thinking at the time that it was a bit cruel. I’d like to formally request that all merchants nationwide stick to playing cheerful Christmas music in public places this year. No offense meant to Karen, Elvis, or any other Christmas crooners.

Alas, I don’t have much faith in the power of one blog to change the playlists of shopping centers across the country. So I’d like to suggest a more positive twist:

When we hear these songs while Christmas shopping, let’s pray for military families who can’t be together for the holidays this year. Who knows? The lady one aisle over may be frantically trying to bury her tears in a bag of brown sugar. Ask God to cheer her heart, keep her husband safe, and happily reunite them soon.

Lord, it’s nice to be together at Christmas, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. Please encourage families who have to be apart. Remind them of their purpose. Assure them their sacrifice is not in vain. And help them to find creative and meaningful ways to celebrate together by heart, if not by locale. Comfort them, Lord, as only You can. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.

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Learning to Pray Fervently

Intense Purple FlowersFor the past two days, I’ve been writing about praying fervently for people and about circumstances that draw us to our knees. (Click here and here to read those posts.) It was Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 9:18-19 and 25 that prompted these thoughts. Today I’d like to consider a few methods of praying with determination and fortitude about whatever has deeply touched our hearts. After all, not all of us are capable of spending 40 days and 40 nights with no food or water and with our noses in the dirt. (Though, if God called us to it, He’d make us able to do this—and we’d probably thank Him for it in the end.)

I don’t know how you are, but when I have an urgent concern, everything around me will remind me of it. When I first noticed this about myself, I started training myself to use those random thoughts as reminders to pray. This is the concept behind the Parachute Prayers that I write about from time to time. When something reminds me of a prayer concern, I whisper a prayer right away.

But prayer should be more than whispers now and then. Just as, if my husband and I only ever said, “Hey, how are you doing?” from time to time, our marriage would fall apart. Sometimes we need to sit down and discuss the bigger issues of life. Like all married couples, we talk about work, kids, ministry, finances, hopes, dreams, projects, plans, what we’re learning, our house, and us. If one of us thinks of something we need to sit down and really talk, think together, and pray about, we may mention it in passing, but then we’ll find or even schedule a time to focus together on that one thing.

Sometimes Parachute Prayers are the mentioning-it-to-God part of the conversation. They’re the cue to schedule a time to really talk.

When a specific concern is on my mind like this, so that I start seeing reminders of it everywhere, I’ve found it helpful to start keeping a journal. I’ll write out Bible verses that apply to the situation, quotes from other books, song lyrics, personal thoughts—I’ve even printed out pictures or cartoons that have reminded me to pray. As I’m putting these things in my journal, I’m talking to God about the issue of concern. Later, when I’m ready to really sit down and pray, reconsidering the items in my journal can help me to focus and speak my mind clearly.

I don’t treat every prayer concern with this much intensity. But for an on-going heart concern such as a friend’s chronic illness, another’s troubled marriage, a child’s need, or simply the focus and direction of my work, journaling helps me pray more fervently.

Yet, not everyone prays in the same way. So please don’t feel I’m saying you must follow my lead. I’m only describing what I do in case you’ll find it helpful, not to pressure you.

According to Gary Thomas’s book, Sacred Pathways, we’re all wired to communicate with God a little bit differently. Just as we have different learning styles and different love languages, we also have different means of reaching out to God. Obviously, I pray with words, pens, paper, my keyboard and computer screen. My husband likes to disappear into the woods for a time whenever he needs to talk with God; he’s drawn to nature. My grandmother used to sit down at her piano or organ and play and play and pray; music helped her worship God. Words and Ideas. Nature. Music. Thomas identifies several more, but, if you stop and think about it, you probably already know what draws you to God. Stop right now and try to determine what this is. Ask God to make your prayer bent clear. Now use this information about yourself to help you when it’s time to pray fervently. When you really need to be with God, go where you’ve always found Him.

Father, thank You for drawing us to talk with You. Remind us pray often about all big and little things. We bring our concerns to You for comfort, for wisdom, for the assurance that You know about them and that You really care. We’ll entrust the outcome to You as we learn to focus on knowing and loving You. You’re worthy, Lord. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts this weekend, visit Spiritual Sundays and Heart Reflected.

And if you haven’t found it yet, click here to visit my new Facebook author page.

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Recognizing a Call to Worship

Parachute Prayer“Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness.” –Psalm 89:15-16, NLT

I don’t know what the weather’s like around your house right now, but it’s been kind of a gloomy day around here. I’ve opened all the windows to let the sunshine in, but there isn’t any to be found. Even the dog is sulking. He likes to lay in the sunny spot on the floor. I giggle whenever he has to move to stay in the sunshine as that spot moves over the course of a day.

There’s no sunny spot today.

But there is a gentle breeze. I can see it rustling the leaves of trees and bushes around our house. Sometimes it gets a little more aggressive, causing colorful leaves to dance, then fall. Pleasant to watch—even on a non-sunshiny day.

Reading Psalm 89:15-16 sent my thoughts down this path. I thought of walking in the light of God’s Presence. He’s with us all the time every day. But sometimes we forget.

The Psalmist says those who hear the joyful call to worship are happy, rejoicing all day long in God’s wonderful reputation, exulting in His righteousness. That call to worship is available to everyone! Yet, not everyone hears it. Why? It’s something have to want to hear. It’s something we have to train ourselves to recognize.

Thankfully, the God of All Creation has given something to help us with this. When you see the sunshine crawling across your floor or feel its warmth on your skin, let it remind you that God is there. He’s not in the sunshine, but He created it. Let it be your call to worship Him.

Likewise, when you see the leaves dancing and beginning to fall or feel the crisp, cool Autumn air, let these do the same. Recognize the sunshine and the breeze as gifts from their Creator to You, gifts that can call you to express your thanksgiving and praise.

Father, I want to walk in the light of Your Presence every day—and be aware of it as I do! Thank You for simple reminders that You are everywhere, that You created everything, that I can stop and talk to You anytime, about anything. I love You, Lord! Amen.

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Halloween Prayers for Our Neighbors

PumpkinsI think the thing I enjoy most about Halloween is getting to greet all of our neighbors right on our own doorstep. Throughout most of the year, our quiet neighborhood is, well, quiet! We might get to wave at a neighbor or two when taking out the trash or picking up the mail or while out on a walk, but that’s about it. On Halloween, though, the neighbors all come out and visit each other. I get to greet the children, tell them how cute or scary or beautiful or funny they are, and give them candy which brings smiles to their faces in exchange for the smile they put on my own. I get to say Hi to all their parents and wish them a happy evening. I get to laugh as our dog attempts to go home with every child who comes to the door. (He just wants to join in the fun!) Halloween may be known for the scary stuff, but I think it’s just a great opportunity for everyone to be extra friendly!

As we greet trick-or-treaters this evening, let’s remember to whisper brief prayers for them, too. We may pray for our neighbors in general throughout the year, but, on Halloween, we can pray for them specifically as we see their faces, greet them, and offer sweet treats. If you don’t participate in this aspect of the day, that’s alright. You can still pray for the families you see through your window or hear walking down your street. Your prayers that they’ll come to know Jesus, if they don’t already, and that they’ll grow healthy and strong both physically and spiritually may be the best treat they’ll never know they received.

Father, bless all the trick-or-treaters and their families tonight. Keep them safe and help them have good, clean fun. Thank You for this opportunity to see neighbors who usually stay in their homes. Help us remember to pray for them not only tonight, but throughout the year. May they come to know You well, then grow in Your love each day. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Praying for Decision-Makers Whose Choices Concern Us

“May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great.” –Psalm 138:4-5

It’s easy to become alarmed when we read or hear in the news that a national or world leader or group of leaders is making decisions contrary to God’s known will, in other words, in opposition to what’s clear in His Word.

We don’t have to be alarmed, though. Our sovereign God is in control. He knows what’s going on, who’s behind it, and how it will end. And nobody does anything without His consent. He may not approve, but He does allow, and when He does, He knows just what He’s going to do about it.

So. No worries. God’s got this.

In the meantime, though. There is something more positive that we can do whenever we hear alarming news such as this. Like the psalmist, we can pray. In fact, he even gave us the words. Psalm 138:4-5 is a prayer for the leaders of this earth. When God brings them to mind through any news source, let’s remember to pray that they will all learn to praise Him. Let’s pray they’ll learn what God has decreed. Let’s pray that they’ll come to sing of His glory as they realize His glory is great.

In Romans 13:1, Paul tells us that “there is no authority except that which God has established.” That being the case, those authorities need direction from God. I have no doubt that He can and will use them for His purposes right where they are right as they are, but just think how much more effective they’d be and how much more fulfilled personally if they were working in cooperation with God, living as His faithful servants, longing to touch His heart.

Father, thank You for the prayers of the Bible. Thank You for leading us to this one today. Help us to remember these words and pray them often, for the good of our world, our nation, and our community, for the good of those who serve in positions of authority. Amen.